April 24th, 2012 at 5:00 am
Spring is here and while we naturally feel the need to spruce up and clean our homes, how many of us take the time to tidy up our computers? Over time we collect everything from emails, to bookmarks/favorites, documents and files and all manner of other digital media that drain space and resources on our systems.
Taking a little time to clean out and reorganize can be both cathartic and smart, since the end result will be a clean-running machine and that certain peace of mind that we all feel when we’ve gotten rid of the clutter.
The first step should be something you do more than once a year, but even if you haven’t ever done it, now is a great time. The Disk Cleanup app in Windows looks at all of your non-essential files and provides an easy way to delete them. The most common files to eliminate are the Recycle Bin and the Temporary Internet files.
It’s easy to forget that actually deleting a file is a two step process and the Recycle Bin is usually full of long-deleted files. It’s like our household trash. Putting it in the bin is only the first step. We need to have it taken away for it to be really gone.
As for Temporary Internet files, these are hoarded by your computer every time you surf the web. And like a room full of collected stuff that doesn’t have it’s own space, it gets pretty hard to move around without knocking into things. Cleaning out these files allows your browser to perform better by not having to sift through unneeded clutter to get around.
Another helpful Windows utility is the Disk Defragmenter. This process re-organizes the files on your hard drive so that they are segmented in an orderly manner as complete files, not broken up into pieces as a result of writing and rewriting to whatever bits of space are available. You can schedule Windows to do this automatically on a regular basis. Good practice.
Next you should think about organizing your files and deleting old files. Any time I teach a computer class, we always spend some time on File Management and I preach the folders methodology. Think of your computer as a file cabinet. Rather than throw everything into a file drawer, we usually have hanging files, with labeled file folders inside, so we can easily retrieve what we’re looking for. Anything else is chaos. Windows makes it easy to create folders and folders within folders so you can organize your digital documents just like you would physical ones. And with Windows 7, the library feature makes it really easy to cross-reference and categorize your files to make them even easier to find.
Last but not least, let’s bring up your inbox. Every day we get more email and without vigilance it becomes unwieldy. The ultimate digital nirvana is zero inbox but forget that. I firmly believe it’s unattainable, or at least fleeting. However, I do try to regularly try to achieve a one-page inbox, no scrolling required.
Folders (again) and labels (for Gmail users) are a great way to organize. Setting up rules and filters to automatically categorize email as it comes in can really help with inbox management.
Also remember to use the spam features of your email provider. Don’t just delete spam, mark it as spam so that you train your system to know that future items from that sender will never make it to your inbox. And every so often, just take a look at your spam folder/label and check to be sure that what’s in there is really spam. If it’s not, use the Not Spam option so it won’t go there again.
A clean and organized home is a happier place. The same is true for your computer.